What a difference a decade makes. Back in the 00s, the corset was worn by women such as Christina Aguilera, Anastasia and Britney Spears, with oiled-up skin, the lowest of lowslung jeans and chokers. It was part of a look where sexiness was the ultimate goal. Fast forward to 2016, and the chokers are still there but the corset is in different territory: it’s gone high fashion. How? By ditching the skin. To wear the corset in the right way now, it needs a shirt layered underneath it.
This trend, as so often, can be traced back to the Prada catwalk. For the autumn/winter collection, Prada sent models down the catwalk wearing all sorts of things – blazers, cloaks, patterned shirts, blouses, brocade dresses, coats – mostly with corsets worn over the top. It looked less Britney and more bag lady, and therefore way more fashion. Trust Prada to take something associated with sex and seduction and turn it into something cerebral. It’s an oddly chaste take on underwear as outerwear.
The corset-over-things trend continued at other collections: Victoria Beckham, where they were worn over jumpers; Loewe, where a leather corset was worn over a T-shirt; Preen, with a floaty chiffon under a corset. These looks all managed to appear interesting and new in a catwalk-worthy way, while simultaneously showing off how trim the wearer’s waist was. Ultimately, of course, that is what corsets are designed to do.
This is a combination that celebrities are into. Gigi Hadid, in her recent superhero moment v a fan at Milan fashion week, looked the part wearing a pinstriped corset over a heavy metal T-shirt (remember, Wonder Woman wears what is basically a corset and pants). And Kim Kardashian is very familiar with the corset, having shown her preference for the waist-trainer on Instagram. If that all sounds a bit like a modern day Scarlett O’Hara in pursuit of an 18½in waist, Kardashian has taken to the corset-over-shirt thing, wearing it over a chambray number back in August.
While it might be a stretch to compare Kardashian to Catherine de Medici, the latter had the same kind of influence in the 1500s – and all without social media. It was thanks to de Medici that the corset became fashionable in the first place, when she was the queen of France from 1547. Kardashian’s take-up of the corset-over-shirt trend may well have the same effect in 2016. It’s already been featured on the Blonde Salad and Vogue’s website. Nearly 500 years after de Medici, and more than 10 after Spears, the corset is back. Just remember the shirt underneath to keep it fashion.
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